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Northampton – Politics of Deceit?
I’ve had a week off from blogging while I sorted and weeded out unwanted Council papers and documentation which has led to this blog.
With the recent pronouncements from the Northampton Conservatives that they are cutting front line staffing and changing the remaining staff terms and conditions of employment to put more into the delivery of front line services the issue of why then have they increased staffing in the Leaders office has once again risen been raised.
Of course this was raised last year when I proposed that the additional member of staff employed by Cllr David Mackintosh should be withdrawn and the money saved from deleting the post used to support the vulnerable elderly.
It was a proposal that was rejected by the Leader of the Council as we very much expected.
What at the time surprised us, but what we have seen is a clear policy and character trait, was that rather than justify increasing his personal staff, all at the taxpayers’ expense Cllr Mackintosh made a personal attack on me and falsely accused me of agreeing to the staff increase when I was the Leader of the Council.
He even produced a single email out of a whole series of emails on staffing issues as evidence to support his allegation, except of course it was as he knew not only nonsense but in fact deceitful.
Or in simple words he made a clumsy attempt to cover his own back by intentionally misleading the Council.
I raise this now because yesterday afternoon I came across the following emails that I sent regarding this issue all of which of course are available via the Freedom of Information process.
Email dated 1 November 2011 at 08:34:39
From. Cllr David Palethorpe
To. Cllr John Caswell Chairman Northampton Borough Council Conservative Group
You may be aware that I set in train a review of the roles of the current political assistants with a conclusion and implementation of the review to be completed by 31st December 2011.
I am also aware that at the start of the current administration there was a suggestion from Cllr Mackintosh who was then Advisor to the Cabinet for the role of the Conservative Political Assistant to be changed and upgraded to ‘Political Advisor’ with responsibility for media management and support of the Cabinet and Leader and a new recruitment to the Post of Group Political Assistant.
I don’t know if this will now be resurrected however I feel of right to provided my reasons for rejecting the idea when Leader of the Council.
1. Politically it would be damaging if whilst talking of the end to cut services due to the recession and jobs in front line services we then introduced what effectively would be seen by the opposition and public as a ‘Political Spin Doctor’. This has specific connotations with the national mood around the role of Andy Coulson as spin doctor for David Cameron.
2. We would not be able to justify why we would wish to employ a second person in the political assistant post.
3. The opposition would see the roles as being Conservative staff, acting in a political manner but paid for from the public purse.
4. .My estimates were that the financial cost to the taxpayer of introducing a new political advisor role and recruiting a part-time 0.5 political assistant role would be in total for both salaries an on costs in the region of £60,000 or the equivalent of 2 Neighbourhood Wardens or 3 Part Time Park Rangers. At a time when it is being suggested that we cut the PCSO funding for 3 staff this would be a politically dangerous decision as well as being the wrong one in terms of meeting the Manifesto Agenda of cutting bureaucracy.
Given the recent events at Larva Ignite I believe as we discussed before that there is a need to provide additional resources to the Licensing Enforcement department.
Clearly I support the need for appropriate support for political groups, however we also have to take into account should the suggestion outlined above be brought forward again that the Leader and Cabinet already have the services of an excellent Executive Secretary to the Leader of the Council.
Cllr – BIlling Ward
Northampton Borough Council
Having received no response I then wrote again on the 14 November 2011.
From Cllr David Palethorpe
To Cllr John Caswell, Chairman of the Conservative Group & Deputy Leader of the Council
Dear Councillor Caswell
Ref: Political Assistance/advisor Update Request
I have copied the text of an email sent to you on 1st November 2011 for which I have not received a response.
I write today following a very disturbing rumour and concerns that have been expressed to me over the weekend that the Leadership have made promises to (name excluded) regarding changes to his role from that of Political Assistant to Political aDvisor and that steps are already being pursued to employ additional support for the Conservative Group both at a cost to the taxpayer.
I have real concerns that any such proposal or policy implementation during a period when many are undergoing real reductions in household income sue to inflation and especially at this time in the lead up to Christmas where traditionally the pressures on families result in increased family tension would be totally unacceptable to the people of Northampton and would undermine the manifesto promise of reducing unnecessary costs.
It is inconceivable that the administration would be considering such a move when cuts are being proposed to Housing Support, Mental Health Services, Services to Young Adults, Connexion Services, Services to help elderly and vulnerable people and Children Centres alongside the extreme cuts in support to the police.
If the changes as outlined to me are correct I feel in the spirit of openness that I should inform you that I would be totally opposed to such a change.
I therefore write and trust you will provided clarification of the following points for me to be able to take a decision and position bases on the correct information,
1. Have assurances been given to the Conservative Group Political Assistant that his role will be changed from its current one to one of political advisor to the Leader of the Council and Cabinet at increased cost to the authority?
2. Have steps been taken or are there proposals by the administration to employ or divert additional resources for the Conservative Group?
3. Will you confirm that any changes to the role of the Political Assistants who currently support the Conservative and Labour Groups will only take place through the current Northampton Borough Council Job Evaluation process and in full consultation with the trade unions?
Cllr – Billing Ward
As history now shows there was a very good reason why both emails were ignored by the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council with Conservative office staffing and the cost to the taxpayer being increased.
They also show that in fact the decision to increase staff was that of Cllr Mackintosh which begs the question why would he, in the full knowledge of the position I had taken claim that he was just continuing with something I had already agreed to?
Which of course brings us full circle to the sense that within the Northampton Conservatives as we are seeing time after time the ‘policy of ‘deceitfulness’ is not only an ingrained character trait of the leadership but is increasingly becoming that of the administration as a whole.
It means of course that the truth has now well and truly given way and sacrificed for political power and self-interest of the Northampton Conservatives.
Paid for by the people of Northampton.